What to do if you are waiting, wait listed, or seeking more aid

We’re hearing from a lot of students who have submitted their applications and now find themselves either waiting to hear back or trying to negotiate financial aid packages. Here are some helpful tips and pointers from the Pre-Law Advisors and from Dean Burns at DePaul Law to help you position yourself in the best manner for admission and aid!

If you’re still waiting for an admission decision…
You are NOT alone! Many students tell us they have been waiting weeks or months. What is going on? It could mean:

  • The school is essentially “wait listing” you, but not calling it that, by waiting to respond to you until they see the rest of the applicant pool.
  • The admissions office is understaffed or inundated with applications.
  • You applied so late in the cycle that a backlog of applications must be reviewed before yours.

What can you do?

  • IF it has been at least 4-6 weeks or whatever time frame the school has indicated, reach out and gently inquire about anticipated time frames for a decision.
  • Follow the law school on Twitter; many deans have taken to updating applicants about expected decisions there.
  • Don’t: Complain about their slowness or criticize the school’s process, tell them you’ve already heard back from everyone else or from “better” schools, give the school a deadline. Sometimes patience is key.

If you’ve been waitlisted…Understand what this means: that you are an admissible candidate but the school needs to hit its institutional goals before they can admit you. Institutional goals could be LSAT/GPA related but could also be related to balancing the class with regard to gender, diversity, in state/out of state, age, etc. Very few schools can accurately predict how many applicants–and with what qualities–they will be pulling from a wait list. When the school tells you they don’t know, it is very likely true.

What can you do?

  • Follow the school’s directions carefully. Some law schools will ask you to confirm that you want to be on their wait list–if you don’t do so, you will not be considered.
  • Update your application by sending an updated resume, a new recommendation, or a letter or email expressing continued interest in that school.
  • Stay in touch–no more than once every week or two–to demonstrate your interest in the school. IF the school is your top choice, then say so.
  • Continue to make other plans. No one should proceed by “expecting” to be pulled from a wait list…even if this does happen, it can be anytime up to the day classes begin. You need to start making other plans if you haven’t heard by April or so.

If you are seeking more financial aid…
Understand that a law school must offer many more admissions and scholarships than they can actually sustain to achieve the class they want. (For example, they may need to admit 3-4 people to fill every one seat in the class.) This means that at this point in the cycle, a law school is waiting to see how many people accept the offers that have been extended.

What can you do if you want to seek more aid?

  • Start by closely examining your aid offers. Are they for one year or multiple years? Are they contingent on maintaining a certain GPA? How much is the admission and cost of living at each school? Does the school “freeze” its tuition, or should you expect it to rise every year? Make sure you understand your out of pocket expenditures for each offer before you start making comparisons.
  • Call or email the school and politely inquire whether additional aid opportunities exist. Consider including relevant information about your financial status that is not apparent from your application. Examples: Indicate if you are servicing a large debt from undergrad, or if you are supporting family members.
  • It is fine to share your other offers with a school, but know that schools may not consider your other offers to be from comparable institutions.
  • Don’t: Give ultimatums or threats, and don’t expect a law school to “match” another institution outright. Sometimes a law school truly does not have aid left to give, even if they think you are a great candidate.

Financial aid at the law school level is complex, and we’ve developed a special workshop to help! Please join us for Financing Law School on Mar. 31 at 5:00 in the Law Building. Click here for more info.

And, as always, feel free to make an appointment to discuss your offers and next steps with a Pre-Law Advisor! Call 333-9669 to set up an appointment.

 

 

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After the LSAT: What do I do now?

You did it! The LSAT is over! Take a deep breath.

Right about now, most people want to take the next few weeks off before thinking about their applications. Smart applicants will really maximize these next few weeks by focusing on the remaining elements of their application so that they can get those applications out early, qualifying them for the most aid.

Now it’s time to dive in to the rest of your applications. What’s your time frame for completing them? A good time frame to submit your applications is anytime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. But you will need to consider some of these elements:

Deciding whether and where you’re going to apply early decision. You can only apply to one school through a binding early decision program. It’s time to consider whether you want to choose this option, in which case your early decision application will be due (depending on the school) on November 1, November 15, or December 1–in any case, a deadline you need to know. Applicants should carefully consider this option. In the case of binding early decision programs, you need to decide: how committed are you to this school? How important is aid to you? Would you go there even if you had to pay full price? Would you be willing to withdraw all of your other applications if X school admitted you? That is the level of commitment that binding early decision requires. Take some time to research and consider this big decision.

Letters of recommendation. We’ve been talking about these for ages. Hopefully, you’ve already got your letter writers lined up. If not, RUN, don’t walk, to your recommenders and get them lined up. You should expect at least 6-8 weeks for your recommender to write the letter, submit it, and for the LSAC to process it. That means if you want to apply by November 15, you need to get your recommendations lined up NOW!

Personal statement. Yep, it’s time to take that energy and time you were focusing on the LSAT and devote it to your personal statement. In addition to our personal statement workshops (which you can find on our event calendar here), we also have some tips and suggestions for the personal statement on our website. Spend some time thinking about your values, your goals, and what makes you stand out from the crowd. Then write a draft, set it aside for a few days, and revisit it. Don’t worry if you don’t love the first draft–no one does. Start now so that you can spend 3-4 weeks thinking, writing, and editing. When you are ready for some feedback, you can make an appointment for a Pre-Law Advisor to review your personal statement and discuss it with you. (Call 333-9669 to set up a personal statement review appointment. Please email us your statement and resume two business days prior to your appointment so that we have time to review them.)

Transcripts. You’ll want to order a transcript from each undergraduate institution you attended. Visit the LSAC here, http://www.lsac.org/jd/applying-to-law-school/cas/requesting-transcripts, for more information on the transcript ordering process.

Take a look at our earlier post called “The Application Process: LSAC Tips”, http://publish.illinois.edu/prelawadvising/2013/09/18/the-application-process-lsac-tips/, for even more application details.

 

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Are you ruining your chances of getting a great letter of recommendation?

“Regardless of what stage of the [law school] application process you are at, if you haven’t started to think about who you will want to write your letters of recommendation – you’re late.”

There is an abundance of fantastic guidance on getting great letters of recommendation for the law school application process.  Anna Ivey, the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, has given specific instruction on how to avoid the “generic” letters that most frequently reach the admissions committees.  You can find some of her smart and practical advice here, and also on her website found here.

But in thinking of putting together a quick list to serve as a reminder for the strategies to get letters of recommendation that mean something and stand out, the article that I’ve stolen the title from for this very post stood out above the rest.  Sometimes when things are written in the positive it is too easy to believe that some watered-down version of what we are doing is actually meeting a bare minimum.  But this article smacks you across the face for doing five, likely very common, things.  It is written towards pre-med students, and if there weren’t more effective uses of time I would cut and paste and replace all those with pre-law, because it is so relevant.  Check out this article (linked above), and be certain that you aren’t ruining your chances of securing what should be your first priority after LSAT and GPA in the admissions scheme.

5 Easy Ways Students Ruin Their Chances at Great Letters of Recommendation:

1.  CHOOSE THE WRONG PEOPLE TO WRITE YOUR LETTERS

2.  PERFORM POORLY IN CLASS OR AT WORK

3.  TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING BUT WANTING TO BECOME A [LAWYER]

4.  ALLOW FOR ONLY A LITTLE BIT OF TIME TO WRITE YOUR LETTERS

5.  HOLD BACK ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOURSELF

Wherever you are on your timeline for applying to law school, be certain you are not falling into these common traps that will ruin your chance of securing a strong letter of recommendation.

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Professionally Prioritizing Your Goals

As a third year law student, I should not be surprised that life hasn’t slowed down as I enter the last year of school.  But even with a job offer and the confidence that provides for post-graduation, I still found myself struggling to analyze what opportunities and responsibilities I could feasilby manage this year while continuing to strive for success and the ability to make what I felt was a meaningful difference in my various communities.

After an all-day orientation for an incredible clinic at the law school, I spent the first weekend back on campus asking myself if I could realistically commit myself to these clients seeking legal help, and I found myself feeling bad when I realized that the answer was “no”.  [If you don’t know what clinics are – check out your law schools of interest and see what they offer in terms of these practical classes that typically serve under-represented clients].  So I decided to carry out my “drop” from the course in the most professional way possible.  I sent a brief email to my specific supervisor and the director, explaining my decision and offering my services as a consultant for other law students that may find themselves in the particular area I have extensive knowledge that might of use towards serving these clients.  The next morning I stopped in the office to thank them for the opportunity and take care of any necessary paperwork before the drop deadline passed (there was none – but it is a good “line” in terms of having a task to get you into the office). 

Those steps may sound intuitive or even too simple to type out into text, but it would have been easy just to go onto the university web app and drop the course without taking these steps.  Being honest from the beginning and then professionally carrying out the tasks not only continued to foster the type of professional career that I’d like to always be striving towards, but it also helped me lose the “guilt” of letting go of an opportunity that would have been too much in the mix of all the other activities I have this semester.

I would be lying if I denied that I have also carried out these rather mundane tasks without the appropriate degree of professionalism.  Just recently I let a project run over the deadline and experienced the guilt of delaying before letting my coordinating professor know, when in the end she was incredibly graceful, respectful, and understanding – and everything worked itself out.  When you hold yourself out as consistently professional, opportunities will present themselves, and you will earn a reputation that makes you stand out above the rest.  Challenge yourself to integrate an additional “professional habit” this week – maybe in your attire, or in the way you send emails, or arriving to each class 5-10 minutes early.  If you’d like to share your goal or any interesting outcomes, email us at uiucprelaw@gmail.com.

If you are weighing all the activities on your plate right now, you might like these practical tips from Robert Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School whose accomplishments include a partnership at the Washington, D.C. firm of Caplin & Drysdale:  www.entrepreneur.com/article/224675

 

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Fall Applicants: Tips on Getting Great Letters of Recommendation

‘Tis the perfect season to be lining up your letter of recommendation writers. If you haven’t yet found your 2-3 willing souls, now is a great time to get some firm commitments on the table. I hear of a lot of students say things like “well, I talked to someone about it” and “I mentioned it to a professor”. That is not a commitment! A commitment means you asked and the person said yes. It means that you both know what is expected, and by when.

So, how can you go about getting the best recommendation letters? Here are my Top 5 Tips for Getting Great Letters of Recommendation.

1. Don’t procrastinate. Seriously, do it now. Right now.
The number one challenge I see is applicants waiting to ask for a recommendation until it’s a bad time for the recommender. Many students are surprised to find that their professors’ schedules are a bit different than student schedules. Remember that in addition to teaching this course, your professors and other university administrators are: teaching other courses, grading papers/exams, taking sabbatical, doing research, publishing articles, hiring and training graduate assistants, taking classes, serving on committees, supervising staff…the point here is that the person asking for the recommendation should consider the schedule of the recommender. A good general rule is to allow at least six weeks for your recommender to complete a recommendation. The best time to ask? During the summer, or at the beginning of the fall semester (for people applying to law school this fall). The worst time to ask? Anytime after midterms, or during winter break. This is when professors are busiest–or gone.

2. Consider your approach.
Give an out
. Remember that for law school your goal is to get GREAT recommendations. It’s competitive admissions, after all, and a lukewarm “this student took my class and got a B+” is not much help. When you approach your letter writers–whether via email or in person–you should always ask if they feel comfortable that they can write a great letter for you. Give them a chance to say no. If you sense hesitation or your recommender is uncertain, it is in your best interest to move on. I can’t tell you how many times I hear from law school deans that lukewarm letters are simply not helpful. What a waste of everyone’s time!

Also, get it in writing. In addition to being great legal advice generally, this really applies to letters of recommendation. Get the details in writing. You’ll want to confirm the recommender’s commitment and the time frame by which s/he will submit the letter. It doesn’t have to be formal; you can simply send an email that says “Thanks so much for agreeing to write my recommendation! It sounded like you could submit it by October 1, which is great because I hope to complete my applications around October 15. Please let me know if there is anything else I can provide to assist you with the letter.”

3. Think carefully about who knows you and your academic skills best.
Actually, this requires you to think about what law schools want to know. First, they want to know that you are likely to succeed academically in their program, and this means that they want to hear that you have great writing, analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills. Which of your professors can speak to those skills? You’ll also want to pick an upper-level class in which you excelled; it hardly helps to have a recommendation from a professor (or TA) who taught you and 300 other people in an intro class three years ago.

Side note: This process requires that you make an effort. Many students will reach senior year and then say something like “It’s a big school and I never went to office hours or talked to any of my professors.” Well, here’s the thing: that is a wasted opportunity. Yes, we are a big institution. But if you want any kind of good academic recommendations (whether for law school or any graduate program), you need to take the time to attempt to get to know a few professors. Go to office hours. Ask questions about the course. Or just have a conversation about their career path. Most professors become professors because they want to teach and mentor–and they like getting to know their students. They were once where you are, so don’t feel intimidated. Like the general population, some professors are friendly and others aren’t, so please don’t be discouraged if you approach one professor who seems disinterested–just move along to someone else.

4. Round out your academic recommendations with a different perspective.
After law schools are convinced that you have the academic skills to succeed, they want to know what else you bring to the table. They want to see qualities and values such as leadership, responsibility, ethical behavior, ability to manage money, working as a group, or a commitment to volunteering or to a certain cause. In other words, every school wants its students to be smart and to reflect well on the profession. Who can write a recommendation that shows qualities beyond academic brilliance? It could be a work supervisor, internship supervisor, volunteer site supervisor, a mentor, or a coach. Think about the qualities that you have demonstrated outside of the classroom, and ask your recommender if s/he can speak to those specific elements. This can really round out your recommendations and add a new perspective to what makes you a great candidate.

5. Follow up with your recommender.
You’re dealing with a professional adult who said s/he would submit the letter. You shouldn’t have to remind them. It is frustrating that some professors and other professionals agree to write recommendations but aren’t professional enough to submit them–either in a timely way or sometimes at all. But it happens all the time. (And, in fairness, we all sometimes have extenuating circumstances.) There isn’t much you can do except stay in contact with your recommender. Check your LSAC account to see if the recommendation has been submitted by your agreed-upon time frame. If not, be “pleasantly persistent” about it. It’s better to resolve any delay in October than to wait until January and finally reach out, only to discover that the recommender has been on medical leave and isn’t expected back for another month. Trust me, this happens more than you would expect. Put a note on your calendar to follow up on the agreed upon “due date”, and again two weeks later if the letter hasn’t been submitted.

So there you have my best tips on getting great LORs. For another perspective, check out the tips (along with an awesome Flight of the Concords song!) from consultant Anna Ivey. Then go and talk to your recommenders. Today.

http://www.annaivey.com/iveyfiles/2010/09/law_school_recommendation_letters_plus_a_song

 

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A Few Thoughts for Future 1Ls from a UIUC Alum at Yale Law School

This posting was written by Stanley Richards, UIUC Class of 2012. He graduated with a BA in Political Science and BS in Public Policy in Law. He is a Student Director for the Yale Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project and Online Editor for the Yale Journal of Regulation. He is currently trying out for the Yale Law Journal.

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I am glad I did not consult many online “resources” before coming to law school. Any basic Internet search on “law school preparation” or some variant of this yields a plethora of links to websites and posts created by people and institutions of questionable credibility. Much of the advice and “myth-busting” does more to encourage anxiety than to mitigate it. I was excited by this opportunity to blog because I want to tell those of you who are applying to law school or that have already been accepted a little bit of inside knowledge that I have gained as a Yale 1L. Most of this will ease any concerns you future lawyers have; I have selected mostly those things I wish I knew before going to law school.

I think the most important discovery I have had is this: three years in law school is a very short amount of time. The timeline for firm jobs and clerkship placement makes this time even shorter and more hectic. If you are gunning for a firm job you will be likely be interviewed for it the summer before your 2L year and be extended a permanent offer of employment the summer before your 3L year. Interviews for clerkships in the federal courts continue to be moved further and further earlier in the calendar. Law students, therefore, will have only about one year to really make their mark and build their resumes to impress their future employers. For instance, the firms that will interview me this coming summer will only have two semesters worth of grades to look at (in fact, only one semester of “real” grades because Yale Law does not do traditional grades first semester 1L year)! So, 1Ls are well advised to be prepared to do a lot their first year. It is not like undergrad wherein one can cruise the first year doing Gen-Eds and getting acclimated to campus life, planning to pull up their GPA in subsequent years if need be. You will be rewarded later for getting involved in clinics, secondary journals, and doing meaningful substantive research your 1L year.

Secondly, there are so many opportunities in law school. Popular myth has it that law school is a combative and a zero-sum game. This is just not true. Do not get me wrong, there are passive-aggressive people. There are “gunners” who just ask too many questions in class and do not give others a chance to talk. But, on the whole, considering law schools tend to be full of ambitious people, the atmosphere is relatively collaborative. With the numerous journal offerings, research opportunities with professors, clinics, and courses, there are plenty of places where people can succeed and make their mark. I remember being concerned that I would lose in this zero-sum game and being intimidated by the numerous students from very elite schools or who seemed to have saved the world three times over before coming to law school. I realized within a few weeks such anxieties were ill-founded and that there was plenty of opportunity to succeed.

Third and finally, write early and write often. Student scholarship is a big deal and it is not limited to the particular institution’s law journal. Professors are often eager to work with equally eager students, and it is excellent in interviews to be able to speak about one’s research.

These are just a few of the many things about Yale Law that have surprised me. I will admit that some of these observations may speak more to the reality at Yale than at law schools generally, but I think many law students who were very anxious before 1L year will agree with a lot of what I am saying.

 

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Resource Review – Careers in International Law

Have you utilized our resource room materials?  Bring your laptop, grab a coffee, and come see if there is a resource that might interest and guide you – and of course – schedule a time to chat with us if you find a legal interest we can help you know how to research.  Just yesterday, Jamie helped a pre-law student take her interest in environmental policy and research to find a Masters in Environmental Law and Policy one-year program that tracks the interest through a program that doesn’t carry the debt-load or non-related studies time that a traditional law degree would mean for her!

Most of our materials are not intended to be checked out, so drop by when you’ve got an hour and we’ll make sure you have a comfy place to read!  Here’s a review of one of our recent purchases.

This fall we saw an increased interest from our pre-law students in pursuit of international law careers and the increased offerings from law schools of J.D. Dual Degree Programs (there are currently at least four that offer dual US (J.D). / Canada (L.L.B.) degrees).  So we invested in a great resource from the ABA Section of International Law, Salli A. Swartz, Editor, Careers in International Law (2008).  The book is in its third edition and is a best seller for law students interested in international law.   It includes authors from many creative and more traditional possibilities in both public and private sector international law.

What we like about the book is the wide variety of practice areas from the many contributing authors.  It reiterates many of the practical practice skills that serve students well in any practice area.  Many of the authors discuss their law school experience and the impact on their international careers – from perspectives where international law was their initial focus and those where international law was more of a career change or something that grew out of their law school experiences.  There are helpful appendixes of the websites and programs that are especially relevant to this area.  The only thing we could have done without is the continued commentary on the ABA and its value in this area – but after all it is an ABA publication, and Illinois is ranked in the top five states of attorneys that have designated themselves into the ABA Section of International Law (along with D.C., New York, California, and Texas).

Some other points for students to consider:

  • Can I further prepare through foreign language study?
  • What will obtaining a work visa be like?  (a NAFTA agreement allows lawyers to obtain work visas in Canada if they have a job offer as long as they properly comply with the procedures for application – BUT – consider possible difficulties in obtaining visas for European or Asian markets and the possible difficulties of obtaining a visa while on the job search.
  • What types of summer exchange programs could I take advantage of during undergrad to demonstrate my serious interest?
  • Do I already have the capability of establishing dual-citizenship?  (a rare but potentially valuable criteria – read the fine print and seek advice from those who have expertise in this area if you are eligible).
  • How can I make this interest apparent in my personal statement?

Come into our office to utilize this resource or the others that might guide you in your interest in a legal education.

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Pre-Law Practice Area Series – Part I

Pre-Law Practice Area Series:  Your Initial Investment – How to Begin the Search for a Practice Area

Welcome back from Thanksgiving Break!  We had plenty of time to remember all the great opportunities we’ve had this semester – and to remember to extend a warm thanks for your engagement in the Pre-Law Advising Center.  As exam season approaches, a typical law student’s calendar is filled with plans to finish outlining for each class and the plan for when and how to approach taking practice exams for each class.  Of course, some of the most memorable activities you pursue during exam time are those that free your mind from the intense preparation – your “distractions”!  Last year, the Law School Dean of Students commented that the busiest time of year for schedule alterations was the days leading up to finals, when students are eager to be distracted by something meaningful to them that involves plotting and planning and not necessarily studying 😉

So if you, like me, find time for all the big idea planning and determining what projects to undertake during Winter Break, here is a perfect project for you to invest an hour or two and refine your analysis of what you want to do after law school.  It will guide you on how to finish your applications, where to visit, and how to eventually plan the beginning stages of your legal education, which has an incredibly strong impact on where you eventually find yourself practicing.  Overwhelming populations of attorneys say that they “fell into” their area of practice based on their summer experiences in law school and placements in their initial years of practice.  While it is true that opportunities you take will guide your experiences, having a strong understanding of many potential opportunities, what they lead to, and how you can best situate yourself to take advantage of these opportunities will give you the advantage over those who let grades, or random internship experiences, or career services offices dictate their momentum on the job search.

I suggest you print this checklist, grab a cup of coffee, find a nice spot with your laptop – and invest one to two hours refining your understanding of practice areas and potential careers.

 

  1.  Brainstorm a quick response to the question “Why law school?”  How do you envision using a law degree right now?  Even if you are in the very initial stages of considering law school, you should have something guiding you in that direction, vocalize it.
  2. Now go to the Stanford Law School Navigator – an intensely detailed online resource and one that I cannot pretend to offer a better or more rounded guide than – and read the general direction overviews for each of the four major directions: Academia, Litigation, Regulatory & Policy, and Transactional (found at:  http://slsnavigator.law.stanford.edu/start).  Note which direction interests you the most right now, and be able to define why.  Which of these directions most aligns with your answers to step one?  There is a lot of law school lingo embedded in the descriptions – so don’t hesitate to look up concepts or words that you need more information on.
  3. Explore each Path (what we typically refer to as a “practice area”) by clicking on it and reading the general overview.  Maybe you will be tempted to start clicking into various specialty areas within each path, I’d suggest investing the time to read each Path’s (practice area’s ) general overview first – to increase your vocabulary in each area and to move to the next step of exploring specialty areas with the most informed perspective.  Of each of these paths, which interests you most?
  4. Now it’s time to explore each path’s specialty areas.  Start with the area that most suited you, and work your way through each specialty area.  You will become aware of the relationships between specialty areas.
  5. Notice that you can narrow the specialty area by limiting it to a specific direction.  For example, under Business Law, I chose Media, Entertainment, and Sports and read the description for “all directions.”  Narrowing the direction doesn’t change the overall description, what that does is limit the “map” of courses and opportunities at Stanford for you to look further into.  The foundational courses are likely available everywhere – but some of the specialty courses only at Stanford.  Consider this a resource to come back to later, when you are in law school and continuing to refine your path and choose your 2L and 3L coursework based on your continued legal experiences.
  6. Expand your search.  So you have an idea of the direction you want to take, and the path that interests you, and have an understanding of some of the specific practice areas within each area.  Your vocabulary and understanding have probably expanded significantly!  Now that you are expanding your search, your discussions will be smarter, your analysis will be more refined, and your insight will be greater.  Move forward by utilizing these other tools.

A.  Go to the ABA’s listing of legal blog categories and browse a few blogs in the practice areas that most interest you:  http://www.abajournal.com/blawgs/by_topic/

B.  Take a look at the ABA’s list of factors to consider and the detailed clinic descriptions of each law school here: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/child/PublicDocuments/choosinglawschool.authcheckdam.pdf

C.  Go to the website of a school that interests you, research the areas of law that they are known for.  I look at the ABA’s listing of school’s LLM programs (Master’s of Law) to know which areas schools are carved out specific programs that likely indicate a strong focus, you can find that towards the back of the 2012 ABA Law School Guide found here: http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publications/misc/legal_education/2012_official_guide_for_web.authcheckdam.pdf

 

Stay tuned for Part II of this series, where we will share some of the research found on two specific areas of law – health law and education law.  As always – wishing you the best as you invest to find your best fit for a future legal career!

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Making the most of your fall break

Eating turkey, watching football and sleeping in sound like pretty good ways to spend your fall break. With an entire week off, though, there are a lot more productive ways to use that time.

Current applicants–FINISH your applications! You really don’t want to be trying to finish your applications during finals. Tips:

  • Are all of your recommendations in? If not, contact your letter writers NOW–before fall break–because s/he might have time off next week too, and can finish your letter if you remind him/her.
  • Polish your personal statement. Do a final edit. Have another set of eyes review for grammar/punctuation. Make sure it’s the correct essay for this school.
  • Have you written all of your optional essays? A common complaint we hear from law school admissions deans is that optional essays are sloppy and aren’t edited well. Make sure you take the time to polish them just like your other documents.
  • Make sure all of your transcripts from any undergraduate institutions (even community colleges where you took a summer course) are submitted. Check your LSAC account to make sure.
  • Finalize your list of schools to which you’ll apply. Do you feel comfortable with the number of schools on your list, and with your admissibility there? Do you have a good mix of safety, target, and reach schools? Remember that the average law school applicant who graduated from the University of Illinois applied to 9 schools and was accepted to 3, and that’s good in terms of law school acceptances. (You can find all sorts of U of I applicant data on our website here.

Not applying to law school just yet? You can still be productive this break. How?

Do some LSAT planning.

  • Take a practice LSAT. See our list of practice LSAT options here.
  • If you plan to take next June’s LSAT, research LSAT prep companies and course offerings and decide whether to take a class, and which one. Test prep classes can be online, in person, or one on one tutoring, and they can range from one month to one year. Which is right for you? Some that are popular with our students are Kaplan, Next Step Test Prep, Testmasters, Princeton Review, and PowerScore. (We are not affiliated with any test prep company. This is NOT an exhaustive list but only meant to get your research started.)
  • For students who plan to do your own LSAT prep, now is a good time to start getting your resources together. The LSAC offers reasonably priced LSAT strategy and test books, like this package. (We are not affiliated with the LSAC and offer this only as a suggestion.) Other students purchase LSAT prep materials on ebay.

Study for finals. Seems like a no-brainer, but for those of you who are sophomores or juniors, it is extremely important that you do well academically now in order to maximize your law school admission chances.

Explore legal careers. Now that you have some free time, why not:

  • Explore the LSAC’s website. The Law School Admission Council website is VERY detailed, and requires some time to digest.
  • Take a quiz to see what area of law might be a good match for you at Discover Law’s website.
  • Read one of the books suggested by the LSAC in its Resources for the Prelaw Candidate list here.
  • Spend some time on the American Bar Association’s website exploring what lawyers do every day.
  • Ask a local lawyer to have coffee with you to talk about his/her career. This is actually very simple, and many lawyers are happy to sit for half an hour with a prospective law student. Start by asking your parents if they know any lawyers. If not, use the internet to find local lawyers and call or email a few. (Tip: Do an internet search for “your county bar association” to find local lawyers easily. For example, “McHenry County bar association” will take you to McHenry County lawyers.) You will be surprised how many lawyers are happy to talk to you about their career, and this is a great way to practice your networking skills!

 

 

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Free Stanford Law School Navigator!

Stanford Law School has released a unique online career and curriculum guide to the public! SLS Navigator allows you to learn about different careers in law and choose courses that will help you prepare for those careers. The overall theme is that a comprehensive guide will allow students to make the most of their three years of law school. Access the guide here: http://slsnavigator.law.stanford.edu/

The most helpful aspect is the breakdown between four major “directions” that a law degree may be used for: Academia, Litigation, Regulation and Policy, and Transactional; and the “paths” that explore the specific legal area within each direction. Just reading the introductory pages for these directions and paths is an incredible resource as you begin to refine your career and academic goals!

The level of depth and integration that Stanford put into this three-year development of SLS Navigator becomes evident when you start to select options from within each “path”. Then you are guided to course suggestions, law reviews and journals, and clinics at Standford that students with your interests should pursue.

Perhaps you aren’t interested in attending Stanford, but this resource can service you in two incredible ways. First, having a vocabulary and understanding of the four major “directions” and some of the “paths” that interest you will put you ahead of the ranks of applicants that don’t understand these major directions, and be incredibly helpful to you in the decision-making process for choosing a law school and allow you to know what kinds of options and opportunities you should be asking admissions officers about at your potential schools. Second, once you are in law school, looking back to this guide in preparation for your 2L and 3L years is comprable to an incredible advising session and the type of advice that can guide you to exactly where you need to go!

If you value knowing the opportunities that exist for you and having a model guide that can enlighten your law school experience, this navigator is something you should sit down with and dedicate an hour or two exploring!

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